SJAA Ephemeris February 2006 | SJAA Home | Contents | Previous | Next

Stardust Returns


Congratulations to the Project Stardust team on the successful completion of Stardust's voyage and meteoric finish. Dr. Peter Jenniskens organized and even raised funds for the DC-8 flight that chased and photographed the Stardust Return Capsule (SRC) in the early morning hours of January 15. Peter was interviewed often by local and national media before and after this effort. He said it exceeded all his expectations. SJAA President Mike Koop was onboard and also featured on some of the coverage.

Stardust's journey was just short of 7 years and 3 billion miles. It rendezvoused with the comet Wild 2 and collected comet particles in a material called Aerogel. Aerogel is a sponge-like material that is 99% empty space.

A good friend of the SJAA, Dr. Scott Sandford pulled one serious all-nighter (39 hours) during the SRC return. Despite those long hours he still found time to tell us that recovery of the capsule went perfectly. He says "Everything in the SRC was clean as a whistle, so many of my contamination concerns are going away." On Wednesday, January 18 it was confirmed that the cometary samples were in good shape with thousands of impacts visible in the aerogel. The largest particles found are about a millimeter in size.

Club member Charles Pillers saw and photographed the return from San Jose. We saw it in Gilroy, an orange streak of constant brightness during the few seconds it appeared between houses. We were using binoculars. Look for pictures and more info at


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